Say what?

Cruising through the blogsophere I happened upon this post from Thabiti Anyabwile from the Reformed side of things.  He blogs at Pure Church.  I find the growing number of blacks in the Reformed tradition intriguing.  While I disagree with much of his description of Kingian leadership and message I do believe that it is important to have these kinds of discussions.  This gives further credence that black Christians are not a monolith.  A good thing to be sure. 

Dr. King Is Not the Right Model for Black Preachers


The African-American church needs leaders that are not as concerned with political wars and public policy as much as they are concerned with a faithful proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mid-term elections pale in comparison to the serious assaults committed by the enemy of our souls against the church and African Americans. While the church has given its brightest and best in the cause of social justice, she has suffered a significant drain on her leadership resources and her primary mission of making disciples. Consequently, today’s Black church may in many ways be weaker than the church in 1830!


14 thoughts on “Say what?

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  1. hmmm…I a big fan of king. I can’t imagine our lives without him. Additionally, he reminds me of how God uses incredably flawed people for his purposes. He was the right man at the right time.

    I do agree, that many black preachers today are still using Kings methods, when the times have changed.


  2. jt,

    I hear others saying the same thing. That King is paradigmatic for black churches today. I tend to disagree with that belief. If anything I see the opposite. I don’t see King as paradigmatic for preachers today. Maybe Kingian rhetoric but I do not see the trenchant critique of the vices of capitalism and militarism that characterized King’s message. I do not see that as paradigmatic among black preachers today.

    What I do see paradigmatic for black preachers is the managerial culture of late modern capitalism…pastor as CEO/Mogul/Nobleman. I do not see the black pastor as social revolutionary. I just don’t see it. I think Lincoln and Mamiya’s magnum opus on the black church backs me up here.  Also Peter J. Paris’ work as well on the black church (Social Teaching of the Black Churches).

  3. Also, I believe King was becoming quite cynical towards liberal democracy’s ability to produce justice for those in the margins. My reading of King has me thinking that King thought that liberal democracies, like America, lacked the moral will to speak to the larger global realities that began to preoccupy his message at the end. I don’t see black preachers today taking up this mantle. I see black preachers, both liberal and conservative, upholding the status-quo in this regard. Both assume that liberal democracy can produce the ‘kingdom’ in some fashion or other. Just in different directions.

  4. The way I see it, King came at a turning point in history. Our remembrance of him has therefor been one sided – focusing on his role as a social revolutionary. But if you were to ask him, I wonder if he conceived his role in primarily pastoral terms, providing guidance and guardianship, addressing evil, reaching out to adversaries, and discipling leaders to breach divides with the Kingdom. Maybe that’s the difference. Did King perceive of his pastoral role of Kingdom-oversight as leading to and sustaining social equity, whereas today’s “CEO/mogul/noblemen” have it the other way around?

  5. eric,

    I agree that our remembrance of King has been one-sided. But I do not believe it has been one of a ‘social revolutionary’. King has been primarily remembered in popular cultural memory as a ‘civil rights leader’. Now…that was somewhat subversive during the Jim Crow era but other aspects of King’s message have not received as much play as his “I have a Dream speech.” King was quite adamant about the interconnections between poverty, war, and global capitalism and their relationship to the gospel. This aspect of King is not paradigmatic. It usually goes on the back burner. I still find people, in our generation, that did not know that King opposed the Vietnam War. And not only did he opposed the war in Vietnam he also made theological connections between racism, poverty, imperialism, etc. This aspect of King’s message is not a part of popular cultural memory…neither is it a part of larger black church…from what I can see.

  6. A book that unveils the thin cultural remembrance of King is Charles Marsh’s recent book “The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today”.

  7. “The African-American church needs leaders that are not as concerned with political wars and public policy as much as they are concerned with a faithful proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”


    BTW, Thabiti is also a pretty good preacher…you can download some of his sermons at

  8. That’s interesting…King regarded his message as one in line with the Biblical prophetic tradition, from what you are saying. I can understand the connection to “activist preachers” much clearer now…and why there is a “nobleman” legacy now. I’ve imbibed the popular conception of King, I’m afraid. This cultural understating is a good example of the American tendency towards outlooks of “lite-theology”, an aspect of our pragmatism.

  9. Our brother on “Pure Church” may have gone too far when he said the church must leave politics to others. The Lord instructed His community to seek the welfare of the city (polis) and pray to Him on its behalf, for in its welfare we will find our own. We are to pray and participate. Yet as an African-American who grew up in the inner-city, I could not agree more that many black pastors have forgotten that the Lord gave them to the church to equip the saints for ministry and nurture their spiritual development. It seems many black pastors believe their primary practice is to preach. The elders devotion to the ministry of the Word involves preaching and counseling among other things. How many black pastors are known for their counsel and personal direction? We may need more Dr. Kings, but they may need to flow from the pew instead of the pulpit. Some things worth thinking about. Thanks for this post.

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